OPINION

Letter to the editor

Chad Frey
The Kansan

Respect for an abuse victim

I recently re-read the article “Kaufman survivor becomes director of Caring Place” (The Kansan, Aug. 31,2021), because of my respect and appreciation for Nancy Jensen. I publicly thank her for her years of mental health advocacy and, as your article stated, for being “the first person to send the alarm about what was happening in the [Arlan and Linda Kaufman] treatment houses”, collectively referred to as “Kaufman House”, where one of my cousins was also a resident and victim. Nancy, as well as other vulnerable victims and family members were finally called to testify in 2005 about the horrific abuse that they suffered in the name of “therapy” at Kaufman House, some of which dated back to the 1980s. Documentation of the Kaufmans’ trial and conviction is available online at Mennonite Abuse Prevention ( themaplist.org) , by clicking below the timeline year of 2005. Also available at this website, is US District Judge Monti Belot’s comparison of Kaufman House to one of the world’s worst prisons in his re-sentencing decision of 2009: “I have never had a case where an inmate even claimed, much less proved, treatment by prison officials remotely similar to that inflicted upon the residents at Kaufman House. The closest parallel which comes to mind is the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.” (Case 5:04-cr-40141, Document 585, page 15).

Your article also quoted some crucial statements from Nancy Jenson expanding upon her experience in being one of the first whistleblowers to report the Kaufman House abuses: "I was getting sicker and sicker because no one was believing me because of my mental illness”. And again, your article described Nancy finding her hope and voice as an advocate for victims: “being believed after 18 years is what gave it to me." This is the critical point for those of us in the church communities, mental health professions, and medical professions to remember and take to heart: we must never neglect, ignore, or minimize the voice of our patients, or of those who lack power and authority in our communities. If Nancy Jensen had been believed 18 years earlier, so much suffering could have been avoided by so many. I salute Nancy’s courage and many accomplishments over the years, and again thank her for her inspiring work at The Caring Place. I also thank Chad Frey for this article.

— Timothy Wiens, MD, Newton